Is It Rude to Wear White to a Wedding? Navigating the Nuances of Wedding Attire Rules

  • Publication date: 03/08/2024
  • Updated: 03/08/2024

Wearing white to a wedding is a delicate matter that requires careful consideration. As we all know, white has traditionally been reserved for the bride on her special day. However, rules and customs have relaxed over time, leaving many of us wondering - can you wear white to a wedding, and if so, how much? 

Is It Ok to Wear White to a Wedding?

Photo @milla

White remains a symbolic color for brides on their wedding day. However, the cultural taboo around guests wearing white has faded somewhat over the years. Still, donning white requires care and consideration.

Several things may factor into whether wearing white to a wedding is seen as appropriate or not. First, take cues from the bride. If she is wearing a dramatic white ballgown, opting for an all-white outfit could come across as scene-stealing. Conversely, if the bride is wearing an ivory or off-white dress in a casual style, she may be less concerned about her guests wearing white.

The formality and time of the wedding also play a role. White is more common at daytime or casual weddings than at formal evening affairs. All in all, it is wisest to avoid bold white outfits that could upstage the bride. Subtle ivory or cream tones are safer choices.

How Much White Can You Wear to a Wedding?

Photo by @dcopperman

If opting for white, restraint is key. Sticking to white accessories offers an easy way to incorporate the color tastefully. White shoes, a purse, jewelry, or other accents on an otherwise non-white outfit is unlikely to be objectionable. Wearing a white dress to a wedding is riskier. Ivory, cream, or champagne are safer light neutral alternatives. If set on white, choose an understated silhouette and style that will not compete with the bride’s look. Here are some specific guidelines:

  1. Subtle patterned white dresses tend to attract less attention than solid white.
  2. Avoid silhouettes like full ballgowns and mermaid dresses in white. Stick to simpler A-line or sheath styles.
  3. Add a colorful accessory like a belt or scarf to dilute the white.

With attention to detail, it is possible to wear white to a wedding in a way that celebrates the bride rather than upstages her. Know that less is more when it comes to white outfits.

Who is Allowed to Wear White to Weddings?

Photo @vnessali

So, can a wedding guest wear white?

While the bride wearing white is a given, there are a select few other wedding attendees who can feel comfortable donning white on the big day. Let's look at who exactly has more leeway to wear white and when they should exercise some restraint.

The Bride

This almost goes without saying, but the bride is permitted - and in most cases, expected - to wear white at the wedding. For many brides, wearing a stunning white wedding gown is something they dream of and plan for months or even years in advance. From extravagant ballgowns to short and flirty styles, brides these days have endless options when it comes to their white dresses. Accessories like veils, shawls, and jewelry complete the iconic bridal style. For brides wearing red, black, or other colored dresses, white often still plays a role in the overall wedding day look.

Flower Girls

Flower girls hold a special position in many wedding ceremonies. As mini bridesmaids who walk down the aisle ahead of the bride, flower girls typically wear white dresses to emulate the bride's wedding gown.

For many little girls, getting to wear a poufy white dress and scatter flower petals feels like a princess dream come true. From simple sundresses with a flower crown to elaborate tulle ballgowns, flower girls can pull off stark white looks without being mistaken for the bride. Their youth and role as attendants give them free reign to don little white gowns for their big moment.

Photo by @lizbarnesphoto

Young Girls

In general, very young girls under 12 years old have more flexibility to wear white dresses to weddings. At this age, they are unlikely to be confused for adult women, let alone the bride. So if your young daughter finds a white dress she loves and wants to wear it to a wedding, feel free to let her.

However, some discretion is still wise. Avoid elaborate white party dresses or anything that could be construed as attempting to dress like a mini bride. Simple white sundresses or dresses with minor accents like a sash or pattern are better options for young girls. The goal is to let them feel their best while still ensuring all attention stays where it belongs - on the bride.

Older Women

Typically it is recommended that female wedding guests past young girlhood avoid stark white dresses. However, exceptions can be made for mature women like grandmothers, aunts, and close family friends of the bride or groom, especially if they confirm with the bride that it is ok.

Older women 50 and up who select simple white dresses in an elegant style can avoid looking like they are competing with the bride. Think Jackie O style suits and dresses in crisp whites - these communicate respect and sophistication for older women. As long as the outfit complements rather than competes with the bride's, many couples will approve of white attire for elders they are close to.

The key to these groups being exempt from the no-white rule is to keep silhouettes, accessories, and vibes subdued and classic rather than overly formal or flashy. If in doubt, cream, ivory, or soft floral prints are safer alternatives.

FAQs Regarding Wearing White to a Wedding

@emmamilton .jpg
Photo by @emmamilton

Let's dive into some frequently asked questions to gain more clarity around wedding guest attire rules.

Can men wear white to a wedding?

Yes, generally male wedding guests are given more leeway than women when it comes to wearing white. White suits and dinner jackets can work for men if paired thoughtfully. An all-white tuxedo risks looking like a groom's outfit, so pairing a white jacket with black pants is a safer choice. Men over 50 can pull off full white suits with less concern.

White shirts, pants, and accessories are also fine for men at weddings, just don't go for a head-to-toe white three-piece suit. That could come across as an attempt to upstage the groom. As long as white is mixed with darker pieces, men can feel comfortable incorporating white into their wedding day attire.

Can you wear white shoes to a wedding?

White shoes present less of a risk for wedding guests since footwear is a more minor accent. Brides are less likely to take issue with someone wearing white sandals, pumps, or oxfords. Just avoid pairing white shoes with an all-white outfit.

Some additional guidelines around white shoes for weddings:

  1. Stick to plain white over-embellished, ornate, or rhinestone-encrusted. white shoes, which could draw excessive attention
  2. Shoes that are cream, ivory, or have a metallic hint are great alternatives to bright white
  3. For men, plain white sneakers typically aren't dressy enough for formal weddings
  4. Flip-flops should be avoided in general

With these tips in mind, white shoes can be perfectly wedding-appropriate for an otherwise non-white outfit.

Can you wear ivory to a wedding?

Ivory is a great alternative for guests who want to wear a light neutral without being mistaken for the bride. It has a subtle yellow undertone that distinguishes it from stark white. Just avoid pairing an ivory dress with other all-ivory accessories.

Some additional pointers around ivory wedding guest attire:

  1. Embellished ivory dresses risk competing with the bridal gown, so choose simple styles.
  2. Ivory works well for guests with warm complexions that can pull off the pale yellowish hue.
  3. Add metallic shoes and jewelry to offset ivory's creamy vibe.

Can you wear blush pink to a wedding?

Blush pink has emerged as another light color option for wedding guests. Its soft rose hue complements most complexions without the starkness of white. Just take care that the particular shade of pink isn't too close to a bride's champagne or rose gold wedding hues. When in doubt about pink's appropriateness, check with the bride for the official thumbs up.

Can you wear winter white?

"Winter white" refers to white clothing and accessories designed specifically for cooler seasons like fall and winter. This includes materials like velvet, knits and heavier fabrics better suited for colder weather.

Winter white pieces follow the same guidelines as regular white when it comes to weddings. Stick to white accessories and understated dress styles, and opt for ivory or cream instead of true white whenever possible. Metallics and rich neutrals pair well with winter white pieces.


Share on social networks
Natali Grace Levine Editor-in-Chief

Manages The Wezoree's content strategy
Writes and edits articles for the Inspiration Blog